The Fury has, since its 2010 introduction, been most frequently compared to 1,600–1,900cc machines from Harley-Davidson and Star (among others). But those guys need to pick on bikes their own size, as does the Fury. Enter Harley's Seventy-Two, 1,200cc of piss and vinegar…and apehangers. Is it the same kind of machine? Well, not really. But skinny-tire bikes aren't cruiser vogue right now anyway; they're at that uncertain bleeding edge where there's some experimentation and funkiness.
They're both inspired by the '70s (the Seventy-Two even has a specific year in mind). Unlike most of the Dark Custom subset of Harleys, this Sportster is brightly colored; our test unit wore some big bass-boat metal-flake paint (Hard Candy). With a skinny front end and tall bars, it takes after a workingman's working bike of the era. It's not what you might see in street choppers of the era but more based on practical, affordable reality.
On the other hand, the Fury is a dream. Take chopper show bikes of the '70s, re-create them in the '00s, then have Honda come along to commoditize and tame it. Five years later, people still can't believe Honda designed this thing. But unlike the hordes of ill-handling, poorly made production choppers of the last decade, the Fury is civilized. Sure it's long, and you might bang the frame rails on the curb when entering your driveway, but for the most part, this extreme-looking bike acts like a Honda.
TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES
But let's keep this real: If we were looking for the absolute most comfortable, practical, or best-handling motorcycles, we'd have looked anywhere else. To cop an attitude like these bikes do, you've got some compromises to make—not the least of which is comfort. They both lack quite a bit in that department. The Seventy-Two is the smaller-man's choice, with a fairly compact Sportster design, so that even with tall bars and forward controls, a 5-foot-6 rider can easily and comfortably be in command. Taller and larger riders will want a seat that is (a) more supportive, and (b) a couple of inches farther back (neither of which is hard to find in the aftermarket).
The Fury looks huge in pictures but, in reality, is compact as well (considering the style of bike it represents). Ideally, riders will want to be taller than 5-foot-8, but you could be down to about 5-foot-4 before a seat change is mandatory. But all our testers despised the Fury's formless seat, which merely serves as a buffer between your butt and the frame rails. In that sense, the Honda is uncompromising in its quest to be true to its vision, but it strikes some compromises too. Plastic motor covers and fenders keep the weight and price down, while a shaft drive connects the rear end. Those touches don't entirely match everybody's vision of a chopper, even if they do match the Honda aesthetic.
While the Seventy-Two doesn't cut quite the same silhouette as the Fury, it still strikes a defiant pose. Bikes like this are fairly common on the streets of any big city, and stripped Sportster choppers are a staple around the world. Harley just decided to start selling a production model itself. Which, as it turns out, is how a lot of H-D models originate.
OUT ON THE STREET
Firing up the Sportster, you're immediately reminded that the Evolution powerplant has been around since the '80s. Back then, manufacturers didn't really soundproof the top end, so mostly what you hear on the Seventy-Two is the sewing-machine-like clatter of pushrods slapping into rockers. Thankfully there are literally hundreds of different aftermarket exhausts built for the Sportster in every style and noise level.
By contrast, the Fury alternately purrs or snarls out the exhaust pipe in a very un-Honda-like manner. It sounds especially sweet when passing cars. And if that's your style, you'll be doing lots of it. Honda's 1,300 engine feels far more potent than its relatively modest displacement would suggest, with a solid bottom-end and lots of torque. It revs out to higher rpm really well, feeling strong through the whole range. The Harley is no slouch, either. After getting past an uninspiring bottom-end, the Sportster engine really comes on at about 2,500 rpm and smoothly revs out nearly to redline. It's comfortable spinning at higher revs than most cruisers, but then, so does the Honda. Shifting favors the Honda as well, with a light, positive touch on the shifter and clutch. The Seventy-Two is more work all around, with clunkier shifting and heavier lever action. Neither ever missed a shift.
Suspension and handling on these two bikes is also a study in contrasts. The Fury is stately and plush, while the Seventy-Two is tightly wound and agile. On smooth, wide-open roads, the Fury is the easy choice, all plush and stable, while the Sportster bounces along. But throw in some uneven pavement, and suddenly the Fury is bouncing around, its too-soft suspension overwhelmed with all the input. However, even bouncing around, the long Fury feels completely in control and balanced (if uncomfortable). Back roads are the opposite, with the tight and light Seventy-Two carving corners with precision and flipping U-turns effortlessly. The Fury is fun in the backcountry; it's light handling and fun but softly sprung and short on cornering and ground clearance, so it's no match for the Harley…and definitely doesn't like U-turns.
In the city, you can pick your poison. They're both born to be bar-hoppers and do the job well, though skinny 21-inch front tires without ABS (an option on both) on oil-slicked, uneven pavement can be an exciting experience for the aggressive rider. The brakes are both middle of the road, with the edge going to the floating rotor of the Fury. Staying in town also masks the glaring flaw of the Seventy-Two, which is its period-correct peanut tank. Going 50 to 60 miles before a light comes on is pretty much no fun at all; good thing it gets killer mileage.
This might seem like some kind of new edgy trend in production bikes, but really it's just a fundamentalist movement. The whole "custom" cruiser class was spawned from Harley-Davidson's take on the chopper (FXs and Softails). This time around, it's maybe fitting that Honda's leading the way to the outer reaches with a real-life, high-necked bike. Despite their differences, these two bikes have way more in common with each other than with the pansy '80s throwbacks that are otherwise known as custom style cruisers. The Honda Fury is a sterilized version of the '00s sterilized version of what a '70s Swedish chopper should be. But at least it goes there. The Seventy-Two is a legitimate badass as well, stripped to the essentials, given bars as high as legally permissible and feet all the way out front.
When it came time to pick a winner, we were split. There's the simplicity and fun of Harley-Davidson's Seventy-Two on one side and the unique blend of high-neck chopper and shaft-driven Honda on the other. Our shorter tester gravitated to the Harley both for fit as well as its tighter fun package, while our taller tester leaned toward the practicality of the Fury. But in this contest, practicality is a joke anyhow, so we give it to the Sportster.
|2014 HARLEY-DAVIDSON SEVENTY-TWO||2014 HONDA FURY|
|Base price||$10,849 (as tested w/ security and paint, $11,969)||$13,390|
|Colors||Silver Flake, Purple Flake, Orange Flake, Flat Black, Orange||Black, White/Red|
|Standard warranty||2 years, unlimited mi.||1 year, unlimited mi.|
|Type||Air-cooled 45º V-twin||Liquid-cooled 52º V-twin|
|Displacement, bore x stroke||1202cc, 88.9 x 96.8mm||1312cc, 89.5 x 104.3mm|
|Valve train||OHV w/ pushrods; 2 valves per cyl.||SOHC; 3 valves per cyl.|
|Overall length||89.6 in.||100.6 in.|
|Wheelbase||60.0 in.||71.2 in.|
|Wet weight||562 lb.||663 lb.|
|Seat height||28.0 in.||26.9 in.|
|Rake/trail||30.1°/5.3 in.||32° (38 at fork)/3.6 in.|
|Wheels||Steel-laced spokes||Nine-spoke aluminum|
|Front brake||300mm disc, 2-piston caliper||336 disc, 2-piston caliper|
|Rear brake||260mm disc, 2-piston caliper||296mm disc, 1-piston caliper|
|Front suspension||39mm fork; 5.7 in. travel||45mm fork; 4.0 in. travel|
|Rear suspension||Dual shocks; 2.1 in. travel||Single shock; 3.7 in. travel|
|Fuel capacity||2.1 gal.||3.4 gal.|
|Instruments||Speedometer w/ digital tachometer, gear indicator, dual tripmeters, clock||Speedometer w/ digital odometer, dual tripmeters|
|Fuel mileage||40 mpg||39 mpg|
|Average range||84 mi.||133 mi.|
5’6”/170 lb./30-in. inseam The Fury is a really good-looking bike with lots of power and excellent handling, considering. The motor is torquey and powerful, the brakes work great, and the transmission shifts smoothly. Both bikes are excellently engineered and designed, but I’m going with the Seventy-Two on this one because it fits me perfectly. From the height of the mini-apes to the position of the seat, as well as the forward controls, it fits me like a glove. I’m really impressed with the power of the 1,200cc engine too; the power-to-weight ratio makes up for the smaller displacement. I feel comfortable and confident going into the twisties as well as at highway speeds. The Seventy-Two looks stylish, sounds good, and it’s fun to ride!
6’0”/195 lb./ 33-in. inseam With a proper seat (which neither possesses) they’re both great bikes for me. I like the bar-hopper vibe of the Seventy-Two. It’s easy to throw around, has a great engine (which doesn't need a sixth gear), and is fun to ride. There aren't many Sportsters that fit me, but this is one. That super-short range really pisses me off though, and to change that would change the bike.
The Fury is strangely practical, and I feel pretty at home on it too; I like having a gas tank in my face! I had a long-term Fury ABS a couple of years ago and managed to correct its faults, though at great cost. The Sportster would be easier to whip into shape, but still, I have a lot of love for the Honda. It’s basically a tie between the two for me. I’d lean Fury for the way it is and Seventy-Two for what it could be, especially with how much cheaper it is.